OPEN Foundation

E. Schenberg

Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy: A Paradigm Shift in Psychiatric Research and Development.

Abstract

Mental disorders are rising while development of novel psychiatric medications is declining. This stall in innovation has also been linked with intense debates on the current diagnostics and explanations for mental disorders, together constituting a paradigmatic crisis. A radical innovation is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAP): professionally supervised use of ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin, LSD and ibogaine as part of elaborated psychotherapy programs. Clinical results so far have shown safety and efficacy, even for “treatment resistant” conditions, and thus deserve increasing attention from medical, psychological and psychiatric professionals. But more than novel treatments, the PAP model also has important consequences for the diagnostics and explanation axis of the psychiatric crisis, challenging the discrete nosological entities and advancing novel explanations for mental disorders and their treatment, in a model considerate of social and cultural factors, including adversities, trauma, and the therapeutic potential of some non-ordinary states of consciousness.

Schenberg, E. E. S. (2018). Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: a paradigm shift in psychiatric research and development. Frontiers in pharmacology9, 733., 10.3389/fphar.2018.00733
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A phenomenological analysis of the subjective experience elicited by ibogaine in the context of a drug dependence treatment

Abstract

Objective

This report documents the phenomenology of the subjective experiences of 22 patients with substance-related disorders who were involved in a treatment combining cognitive–behavioral therapy and hospital sessions with ibogaine in Brazil.

Methods

Participants underwent a one-to-one semi-structured interview exploring the subjective effects of ibogaine. We employed interpretative phenomenological analysis to identify relevant phenomenological categories, including physical sensations, perceptual (visual, auditory, and olfactory), emotional, cognitive, and spiritual. Participants also compared ibogaine with other drugs used in life, including psychedelics like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, and lysergic acid diethylamide.

Results

The findings reveal that the subjective experience with ibogaine has similarities with other psychedelic substances, but also important differences. These include very strong and unpleasant physical effects as well as, at least in this patient population, a very difficult and challenging experience.

Conclusions

Overall, the descriptions involve heightened memory retrieval, specially related to drug abuse and the perception of one’s own future with or without drug use. Strong perceptual phenomena, especially dreamlike visions, were commonly reported. Based on Revonsuo’s evolutionary hypothesis for the function of dreams and of previous suggestions that ibogaine has oneiric properties, we suggest the subjective experience of drug-dependent patients elicited by ibogaine may be framed as simulations of threat and danger.

Schenberg, E. E., de Castro Comis, M. A., Alexandre, J. F. M., Tófoli, L. F., Chaves, B. D. R., & da Silveira, D. X. (2017). A phenomenological analysis of the subjective experience elicited by ibogaine in the context of a drug dependence treatment. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, (0), 1-10. 10.1556/2054.01.2017.007
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Treating drug dependence with the aid of ibogaine: A qualitative study

Abstract

Background: Substance use disorders are important contributors to the global burden of disease, but current treatments are not associated with high rates of recovery. The lack of approved and effective treatments is acutely problematic for psychostimulants like cocaine and crack cocaine. One promising alternative in the treatment of drug dependence in general and psychostimulants in particular is the use of the psychedelic alkaloid ibogaine combined with psychotherapy. This was recently shown to induce prolonged periods of abstinence in polydrug users, including psychostimulants. However, drug dependence treatments cannot be comprehensively evaluated with reductions in consumption alone, with current recommendations including secondary outcome measures like craving, family and social relationship, quality of life, and self-efficacy.

Methods: We therefore employed a directed approach to qualitative content analysis to evaluate the outcomes of a treatment combining ibogaine with cognitive-behavioral therapy based on data gathered from patient’s reports obtained in semi-structured interviews.

Main findings: The results revealed that patients benefited from the treatment in all the secondary outcomes, reporting decreases in craving and improvements in personal relationships, quality of life, and self-efficacy, thus supporting existing notions that treatments combining ibogaine and psychotherapy do have a therapeutic potential in the treatment of substance use disorders.

Schenberg, E. E., de Castro Comis, M. A., Alexandre, J. F. M., Chaves, B. D. R., Tófoli, L. F., & da Silveira, D. X. (2016). Treating drug dependence with the aid of ibogaine: A qualitative study. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, (0), 1-10. 10.1556/2054.01.2016.002

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Acute Biphasic Effects of Ayahuasca

Abstract

Ritual use of ayahuasca, an amazonian Amerindian medicine turned sacrament in syncretic religions in Brazil, is rapidly growing around the world. Because of this internationalization, a comprehensive understanding of the pharmacological mechanisms of action of the brew and the neural correlates of the modified states of consciousness it induces is important. Employing a combination of electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings and quantification of ayahuasca’s compounds and their metabolites in the systemic circulation we found ayahuasca to induce a biphasic effect in the brain. This effect was composed of reduced power in the alpha band (8–13 Hz) after 50 minutes from ingestion of the brew and increased slow- and fast-gamma power (30–50 and 50–100 Hz, respectively) between 75 and 125 minutes. Alpha power reductions were mostly located at left parieto-occipital cortex, slow-gamma power increase was observed at left centro-parieto-occipital, left fronto-temporal and right frontal cortices while fast-gamma increases were significant at left centro-parieto-occipital, left fronto-temporal, right frontal and right parieto-occipital cortices. These effects were significantly associated with circulating levels of ayahuasca’s chemical compounds, mostly N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine and some of their metabolites. An interpretation based on a cognitive and emotional framework relevant to the ritual use of ayahuasca, as well as it’s potential therapeutic effects is offered.

Schenberg E.E., Alexandre J.F.M., Filev R., Cravo A.M., Sato J.R., Muthukumaraswamy S.D., et al. (2015) Acute Biphasic Effects of Ayahuasca. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0137202. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137202
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Treating drug dependence with the aid of ibogaine: A retrospective study

Abstract

Ibogaine is an alkaloid purported to be an effective drug dependence treatment. However, its efficacy has been hard to evaluate, partly because it is illegal in some countries. In such places, treatments are conducted in underground settings where fatalities have occurred. In Brazil ibogaine is unregulated and a combined approach of psychotherapy and ibogaine is being practiced to treat addiction. To evaluate the safety and efficacy of ibogaine, we conducted a retrospective analysis of data from 75 previous alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and crack users (72% poly-drug users). We observed no serious adverse reactions or fatalities, and found 61% of participants abstinent. Participants treated with ibogaine only once reported abstinence for a median of 5.5 months and those treated multiple times for a median of 8.4 months. This increase was statistically significant (p < 0.001), and both single or multiple treatments led to longer abstinence periods than before the first ibogaine session (p < 0.001). These results suggest that the use of ibogaine supervised by a physician and accompanied by psychotherapy can facilitate prolonged periods of abstinence, without the occurrence of fatalities or complications. These results suggest that ibogaine can be a safe and effective treatment for dependence on stimulant and other non-opiate drugs.

Schenberg, E.E., de Castro Comis, M.A., Rasmussen Chaves, B. & da Silveira, D. X. (2014). Treating drug dependence with the aid of ibogaine: A retrospective study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28(11), 993-1000. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881114552713
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Ayahuasca and cancer treatment

Abstract

Objectives
Comprehensively review the evidence regarding the use of ayahuasca, an Amerindian medicine traditionally used to treat many different illnesses and diseases, to treat some types of cancer.

Methods
An in-depth review of the literature was conducted using PubMed, books, institutional magazines, conferences and online texts in nonprofessional sources regarding the biomedical knowledge about ayahuasca in general with a specific focus in its possible relations to the treatment of cancer.

Results
At least nine case reports regarding the use of ayahuasca in the treatment of prostate, brain, ovarian, uterine, stomach, breast, and colon cancers were found. Several of these were considered improvements, one case was considered worse, and one case was rated as difficult to evaluate. A theoretical model is presented which explains these effects at the cellular, molecular, and psychosocial levels. Particular attention is given to ayahuasca’s pharmacological effects through the activity of N,N-dimethyltryptamine at intracellular sigma-1 receptors. The effects of other components of ayahuasca, such as harmine, tetrahydroharmine, and harmaline, are also considered.

Conclusion
The proposed model, based on the molecular and cellular biology of ayahuasca’s known active components and the available clinical reports, suggests that these accounts may have consistent biological underpinnings. Further study of ayahuasca’s possible antitumor effects is important because cancer patients continue to seek out this traditional medicine. Consequently, based on the social and anthropological observations of the use of this brew, suggestions are provided for further research into the safety and efficacy of ayahuasca as a possible medicinal aid in the treatment of cancer.

Schenberg, E. E. (2013). Ayahuasca and cancer treatment. SAGE Open Medicine, 1, 1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2050312113508389
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